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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
July 2012 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
PARENTS ANGERED BY COUNCIL ACTIONS
Parents of pupils at Lady Lovat Primary School are shocked and angry by the appalling way they have been treated by Highland Council's Education department. At a 'consultation' with parents about staffing they were encouraged to accept a new cluster Head. As the school is already also getting a new classroom teacher due to Maureen Sutherland's retirement parents asked for some stability and permanence to counter this, by allowing our current, excellent, local teacher to apply to continue in her post, rather than replacing her with a new probationer. The council wholeheartedly agreed that this would be the ideal situation, and that a probationer would be "unwise" in the circumstances. They then ignored this request completely, resulting in a 100% turnover of staff in August and a new probationary teacher who will be partly supervised by phone. There followed a meeting with Norma Young and Ian Jackson of Highland Council which turned out to be a waste of everybody's time as it emerged, after some considerable discussion, that their hands were tied and nothing could be done. The parents requested written evidence to show that this was indeed the case, but these facts were never presented.
Finally, Dave Thompson MSP has managed to obtain these facts, and they quite clearly reveal that the Highland Council blatantly lied to the parents and staff about the numbers of probationers they had to place.
Having now received a letter from Hugh Fraser, Director of Education, which reveals an astonishing ignorance of the facts, the parent forum have requested a meeting with him to try to get this decision reversed, and quite simply put the needs of our children before their own devious actions.
Lady Lovat Primary School Parent Council
Sue Currie, Acting Lady Lovat Parent Council Chair, shows Dave Thompson MSP an excellent HMIE report on the school
Dave Thompson MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has called for action from Highland Council on the placement of probationer teachers within his constituency.
For the 2012/2013 year the Scottish Government indicated that Highland Council should bid for between 44 and 60 probationers. However, he was surprised to learn they bid for 63, and got 61. Mr Thompson has written to Cllr Alasdair Christie, Chair of the Adult and Children's Services Committee to ask that the new SNP led administration review this process. That they seek to meet the lower end of their target rather than the upper, and by so doing increase the chance that probationers are placed in larger schools. This would avoid the situation where probationers are routinely rotated in small schools. The letter is being sent, following the situation at Lady Lovat Primary School in Morar, and Kilmuir Primary School on the Isle of Skye; both of which have lost a popular probationer teacher this year.
Pupils, parents, and staff past and present came together in the Community Centre in Mallaig to bid farewell to Maureen Sutherland on her retirement from teaching after a 36 year career which includes over thirteen as head of Lady Lovat Primary School.
The 'do' on 21st June came as a complete surprise to Mrs Sutherland, who was very touched by the many expressions of high esteem and affection in which she is held.
Speeches were made in her honour by teaching colleagues Rosemary Bridge, Martin Sullivan and Joan Smith, while Alastair MacLeod spoke for the Morar community and Mandy Tevendale for the parents.
Maureen was presented with an original painting by Morar artist Andrew Fairbairn of the view of Eigg and Rum she has from her house, and then a delicious high tea was enjoyed by all.
It is the end of an era in more ways than one. Lady Lovat will no longer have their own Head Teacher but will share an Associate Head Teacher, a non-teaching role, with Inverie, Rum and Canna Primary Schools. Rum and Canna schools are 'mothballed' at present as they have no children of primary school age.
Right: Pupils of Lady Lovat School with retiring Head Maureen Sutherland.
JESSIE CORSON MBE
So the month started as it was supposed to go on - socially that is - with a few parties. And a fair few folk from Knoydart headed off to Eigg for the annual June celebrations: always good music and good craic.
As you all know Victor Stockwell never made it back. His sudden and inexplicable death in a boating accident came as a massive blow to his family, friends and the community as a whole. The fact that it happened on the water, where if anything he was most comfortable in his abilities, only added to this. The community's thanks go to all involved in the hard tasks at the pier and its support to all those friends hit hardest. But most of all our thoughts are with Isla, wee Victor Elvis, the Miller clan here on the peninsula and Victor's mother Eileen and family in Newtonmore. It is has been much commented that Victor had many talents and almost as much stuff. Of all that was left behind by far the most precious was wee Victor and it is great to see him and his mum around the village, along with all the other mothers and bairns of course, getting down to the age old story of being each other's joy and consolation.
The funeral was held at the shinty pitch in Newtonmore and organised by Victor's uncle Norman MacArthur. There were many stories, which brought laughter, and much talk of those talents both at work and play. As far as these things can go it was a good funeral.
I know that Isla, on behalf of herself and her son Victor, would like to thank all who have helped and supported her over the last few weeks, most especially her nearest and dearest: Rhona, Rhona, Stewart and Fred. Norman MacKinnon and Big Sandy have also been invaluable in sorting out and organising.
And life goes on, although there doesn't seem to be too much more to talk about this month. The place is busy, with yachts, walkers, daytrippers, boats and people just here for the ambience - not sure if that is the busy ambience or not. But out on the hill you lose all or most of the bustle and the place is what it is: rock and mud, moss and grass, trees and deer, ruins and field dykes, water. Don't think any of that will change too much. And not only do people keep coming to our corner of the country, they keep showing how much they like it. The Friends of Knoydart group set up by the Foundation has been running for ten years now. It has raised significant amounts of money over that time and has kept information about the community and its work out there in other parts of the country. The community owes a great shout of thanks to Liz Tibbets for her management of this organisation throughout this period. Many other people have been involved, in particular Margaret Aldington, but it has been Liz's baby and like I say we owe her our thanks.
I find that I have little left to say, even though I had a list to work on, so will leave it at that.
Cheers to all
ISLE OF MUCK
June has been a busy month on Muck. Lots of visitors in the early days due to the Jubilee but quieter later. The Open Day is much smaller than 20 years ago with the smaller capacity of the modern Sheerwater. But it makes the farm tour easier as everyone can ride on two trailers and catering is less hectic.
At the Hall the grass is growing well on the playing field and was even before the rains came. On the bank behind is a little group of top quality trees and shrubs given us by Wes Fyffe from Eigg. Thank you very much Wes - so easy to plant when they come in containers. In another direction a considerable consignment of Strawberries and Raspberries bound for the restaurant on Canna. Happy jam making Aart and Amanda! Back in the hall a Mexican evening in aid of school funds. Not the best evening for it as Colin, David and Sandy were shearing till late to finish the ewes. But the remarkable sum of £350 was raised.
As predicted last month KDL are back to build Gallanach Lodge, new home for Toby, Mary, Archie and Jasper. Difficult start as the digger has encountered the hardest rock ever encountered by any machine on the island. Even the pecker struggling.
Finally on a sadder note at our little graveyard we said goodbye to Alick Fotheringham, long term visitor to the island who first came in 1963. He had become a friend of Archie and Agnes MacKinnon who had just come to live on Muck where Archie was shepherd. In those days visitors were quite unusual. Alick and his family came every year and later had a roof put on a former croft house at Port na Sealach. We will miss him.
That is about all this month.
ISLE OF CANNA
Well the island has been full of life lately, lots of holidaymakers, visitors, sailing boats, yachts and even the odd VIP! The weather has been glorious, hot sunshine with the odd day of warm sunshine… As I am writing though, the rain has begun and we have to admit it is actually a welcome sight. The island was getting a wee bit sunburnt and the 3 minute shower novelty definitely wearing off! Gerry & Murdo are much happier now too as the grass can get a growing and fatten up the bonny wee beasts (the cows and sheep I mean, not G & M!).
We are making real progress now with the HEBNET system, last week saw the entire island and a few bribed volunteers really pull together with preparations began for the installation of the scheme. Aart, who has worked incredibly hard with the Hebnet lads on this, being co-ordinator, communicator and techie translator for the works and between the various parties involved, led the merry team up Compass Hill dragging 500m of cable then organised trench digging for said cable, erecting telegraph poles and mounting the cabinets for the electrical gear. The entire community worked brilliantly together. They managed to do the entire 500m stretch in half a day with good humour and hard work.
The Moorings project is also going really well, with contractors appointed, area surveyed. We are well on the way to having 10 secure moorings in place over the next few weeks. The area they will be placed will still allow use of the bay for anchoring and Magda's annual swim…. The Fèis Chanaidh 2012 committee have been very busy organising, planning and pulling together plans for our 2nd Fèis and we are all getting a bit excited now. The main ceilidh day will be on Saturday 11th August but the whole week before will be filled with Gaelic workshops, performance, learning and immersion in the culture, history, folklore, music and song of this emotive language "Cànan nan Gàidheal", and trust me, you don't have to understand the language to understand the meanings. Any musicians, performers, volunteers or general enquiries for accommodation and events get in touch via the office on Canna, but full programme will be out soon!
Graham has been working extremely hard and productively in Canna House Garden. I have attached his own report on things here, I am far too busy eating the organic fresh and very yummy salad and veggies that are being grown and shared!
"The restoration project has entered its final year, which on the ground means that we're now at the design and planting stage. The main areas that will be planted up this month are the East Borders, the Greenhouse Borders, and the Driveway Borders. Annuals, such as Calendula, Chrysanthemum, Cosmos, and Didiscus will fill in any gaps. The Rose Border will be tackled later in the autumn, when other woody shrubs and trees will be planted too. Using the historical record of plant species that have been introduced to the garden since 1938, we have selected modern cultivars as well as heirloom varieties of those original species. Many of these were selected for their wildlife interest, being especially attractive to butterflies and moths.
The veg plot is now up and running, with salads ready right now, and peas, beans, and root crops to follow soon."
These will be sold to the Gille Brigdhe Restaurant, as well as through the Community Shop. The other news in the garden is that the greenhouse will have its new roof on by the end of the month.
Graham and Olivia have an infectious and keen passion for the wildlife and nature of the island, both have super blogs to follow and the highlight of the week on wildlife watch is that the little tame blackbird who territorialises round the restaurant and Canna House Garden has now been ringed… and is, as we suspected, at least 3 years old!
The Gille Brighde hosted the end of Eagle Ringing Party (rubbish name for a party but you get the idea) with a 'Taste of Canna Buffet', the whole community and visitors and the birders all joined in to hear the adventures and learn an awful lot about our feathered friends! The girls up at Canna House have been busy too, cleaning of windows is proving to be slightly less popular than the cleaning of antiques and knick knacks of the collection, but UV film and new blinds once fitted will help. The exhibition in the waiting room at the pier is proving a lovely rest spot on the island… but those windows might need a wee polish too… Keep busy and well, and enjoy the summer
Aaart, supervising the community task of cable laying on Compass Hill
Photograph courtesy of Olivia Uney
Wildlife on Canna by Olivia and Graham Uney
Canna's two white-tailed eagle chicks are sporting new jewellery after the intrepid bird-ringers came to the island last week. The venture involved a hairy-looking descent down a steep cliff face to the nest to ring the young birds, while mum - who has rather large talons and an even bigger and more vicious-looking beak - circled around nearby anxiously until, the deed done, the magnificent birds were left in peace to get on with family life. Ringing the chicks will enable scientists to monitor the birds' movements and find out more about their survival and where the youngsters go when they leave Canna to establish new territories. It's a little early to be commenting on the successes or failures of our nesting birds on the island, although Kittiwakes appear to be doing well, as do many of the gulls. We have 7 Great Skua nests this year, 6 on Sanday, and the other on Canna, and these have hatched already. Of the waders, Oystercatchers have been out of the nest for some time now, while Common Sandpiper, and Lapwing numbers are also looking good. This year we had two White-tailed Eagle nests, and one Golden Eagle. One of the White-tailed Eagles failed, probably during the egg stage, but the other one and the Goldie are doing well. A male Hen Harrier has been spotted on the island quite a few times in the last couple of months, giving rise to speculation that they may be breeding here too. Of the butterflies and moths, Green Hairstreak was out in force during the early part of June, while there have also been good sightings of Pearl-bordered Fritillary, and Transparent Burnet Moth. Lots of Common Blues, Whites, Small Heaths, and Meadow Browns too. Wild flowers of the moment are Oysterplant, Northern Marsh Orchid, Fragrant Orchid, and Eyebright.
ISLE OF RUM
Typically June is busy, this year is no different, there has been so much to do I'm hastily writing this article hoping it will get in on time to be printed....
Having held another successful craft fair and market in June, we have decided to hold them weekly during July and August; That'll be on a Wednesday in the village hall between 12 and 3pm, come along to try the tasty delights rustled up by happy bakers and gorgeous little hand crafted trinkets.
There has been a lot of island hopping this month.... Ali and Eve to Muck for a week of Nursery, The school to Canna for a day trip to feed Gerry's calf and lambs ( and eat cake), several trips to Eigg - for the 12th June ceilidh, SICC AGM and a film making course at the end of the month and back the other way Alastair and his fellow 'engineering' posse came over laden with tractor, trailer and digger to assist Sandy, Paul and the practically everyone in the epic moving the static home (caravan) onto Nic and Ady's croft... and an epic it was, there were tears, heroes and plenty of action and, you'll all be pleased to hear, a happy ending: caravan on croft; no bother, well not too much. Nic and Ady express their undying gratitude to all involved.
With the school term ended and the only pupil, Cara, headed for high school in August, the school will remain closed for a while now until the next of the little ones comes of age. The school hasn't had to temporarily close for as long as anyone can remember and the lucky find of the old school register while having a clear out details every pupil who has attended Rum primary since 1950, backed this up - a lucky find indeed, this will help us put together our archive of past Rum residents, it is perhaps the only record we have of who has lived here. Sadly, this month we waved farewell to Georgie who has decided ,after a few years on Rum, to return to her native New Zealand, she will be missed. Best of luck Georgie!! Other comings and goings are the new mechanic Paul and his wife Carol who have moved into the Whitehouse, a variety of staff at the castle and Morag, who is back to Eigg for the duration.
A few snippets - bike hire has arrived on Rum, see www.rumbikehire.co.uk ; Dave and Sylvia are due back on the Island this week and Midgefest will be on August 4th www.midgefest.org.uk or @midgefest on twitter - what can I say other than come and join the buzz!!
ISLE OF EIGG
Slightly annoying to hear mainstream media constantly harping on about the awful weather plaguing Britain this month! Well, obviously they don't read West Word or follow online this most brilliant, versatile and entertaining of community publication - otherwise they would have realised that we, as all the privileged folks who happen to live in this world class location (not my words, but those of Duncan in the West Harris Trust), have been basking in the best spell of weather experienced for decades, whilst Minke whales, dolphins and even Orcas have been seen in record numbers doing much the same in our waters, Meanwhile some idiotic radio person talks about the Gulf stream migrating to England!!!
No wonder we can't get people to understand that the world oceans have been so busy absorbing the CO2 we have exponentially produced since the industrial revolution that they can't absorb it any more, so that we ain't too sure of what will happen to the food chain when coral, diatomeas and a variety of shell fish disappear altogether, but hey it's not happening in our back yard yet, so what should we care?
All the more reason to take heart when our primary school kids get to go to Glasgow to meet other Scottish school kids who have also devised a clever renewable energy device, as surely the new generations already demonstrate a better awareness about environmental issue than we do! Well done the Eigg Boffins, you may not have got the first prize, but you make us proud! This leads me to reminisce about wee Cailein Cherry (now a strapping lad currently in travelling in America!) 15 years ago, when the Dog Star theatre came to perform Brian Beattie's witty play about land reform in their smallest pub venue ever (aka Cleadale's Hole in the Wall). When the actress wrung her hands and said "but what can we do? We don't own the land? ", Cailein piped up; "but we do, why don't you? !" For me that's what the Eigg buy-out celebrated this year on Saturday 9th June is all about; empowerment and the realisation that for the new and up and coming generations, the barrier of landlordism is no longer there. So as our young folks and our friends from far and wide jumped about in joyous celebration, it was heartening also to see the old yins still "alive and kicking" as the T-shirt said on the ever so slightly expanding girth of Eigg's one and only spoon player, as he and his Ya Matha compadres played away with the same enthusiasm 15 years on! Should community landownership be prescribed on the NHS then? Not only it leads to consumption of healthy local food (we had a sumptuous community banquet to celebrate "in house" on June 15t), and leads by example (following the Papuan visit, we had folks from Vancouver Island in Canada that would like us to share what we've learnt with first nation people there) but it fosters the practise of healthy exercise because the said spoon player was still jamming away a fortnight later with the guys from Samba Scene! These folks were a real treat! Kilt, wellies and dreadlocks, what an electric or should I say eclectic combination Eigg, 15 years on was also the subject of a young London photography student, and for "real (ie not digital) " photography lovers, her ebook, "Eilean" can be found by googling laney tamplin, and it is a gem. She's got the best recent portrait of our own Eigg Ruby wedding couple, Maggie and Wes, who celebrated 40 years of marital contentment on Sunday 1 July! 'Nough said, it was a celebration worthy of the inventors of the "ceildh croft" concept! We just wish them many more years of blissful happiness… And we'll just have to carry on the way we are meant to go with Feis Eige kicking off on the first week of July! This we hope will be a good send off for our hard working archaeologists who have been diligently digging away under the expert guidance of Prof Hunter. To sum it up in one sentence, through this Heritage Lottery funded dig, they have unearthed the proof that the site at Kildonnan has been continuously occupied for 4000 years! For more details look up the Kildonnan blog on the Eigg website and this column next month!
On a much sadder note, we are all united in expressing our most sincere condolences to the community in Knoydart and to Victor's family, following his fatal accident in June 10th. Our thoughts are with them all.
'LETTERS AND NEWS AT THE LOCHSIDE'
The Trustees of the West Highland Museum are making arrangements to remove the Astley painting by Henry Tamworth Wells from Arisaig House where it has been in situ since 1883.
In August 2011, West Word reported that the Trustees had decided sell the painting, to pay for a piece of waste land to be used temporarily as access.
Such was the outcry in Arisaig that after public meetings arranged by An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig (the Arisaig Historical Society), the Trustees changed their minds and decided instead they would remove the painting to the Museum at some point when they had somewhere to hang it.
At a meeting of the Trustees in November 2011, Richard Sidgwick, Chairman of the Trustees, reported that 'when the decision to sell was made at the end of last year, we were unaware both of the strength of local feeling and the perception of its importance as part of the Museum's collection, for which we can only apologise.' For those reasons, the Trustees decided to reverse the decision to sell and said nothing would be done about tremoving the painting until the situation was fully discussed with Arisaig Community Council.
This 'discussion' was a notification last month that the painting is to be moved shortly.
This decision goes against all common sense and would remove from its designated resting place a painting which only has true significance in the setting specially built for it. Regular readers of West Word will remember that the 1868 painting depicts two boats on the loch shore, with F D P Astley, owner of Arisaig estate, receiving mail from a mounted postman. Of the nine other people in the boats, three are well known men of society at the time - Sir Henry Halford, author Henry Evans and the famous Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Henry Millais - and six are local employees of the estate who still have descendants living in the area.
At the time of discussions with the Community Council last year, the Trustees of the Museum promised a copy of the painting would be given to the community. Whilst not expecting a full size copy - the picture is 9ft by 5.5ft - we have been severely disappointed to learn that the copy is to be a photograph!
Arrangements have still to be made to remove the painting and Mrs Sarah Winnington-Ingram, who manages Arisaig House as a Guest House, has requested that the Trustees do not remove it until the season has finished. Not only would the process be disruptive, the wall in the porch where the painting is hanging would have to be redecorated immediately.
An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig
ROAD TO THE ISLES SHOW 2012
The Road to the Isles Agricultural Show took place on Saturday 9th. June at Camusdarach, near Arisaig, by kind permission of the new owners, the Stuart family. The committee are indeed indebted to the Stuart family for agreeing to continue with the show and for being so supportive of the venture.
All the livestock classes and baking and handicraft classes were well supported, with exhibitors coming from near and far, including the Isle of Mull.
The afternoon entertainment began with a piping selection by young Cameron MacBeth from Mallaig, followed by a fantastic display of equestrian stunt riding by 'Riders of the Storm', who come from Perthshire. They gave a thrilling and varied display on a Scottish theme, with two of the riders being only 10 and 12 years old.
This was followed by the presentation of prizes which was done by Mrs. Judy Stuart, of Camusdarach.
Mike MacNally from Invergarry then gave an excellent demonstration of sheep dog handling, and after that, there was a parade of Highland cattle.
The commentator throughout the day was Angus Mackay from Balfron Station who did an excellent job and really kept the spectators entertained and informed. Angus is well known in Highland Cattle circles and his commentary for the cattle parade was both informative and entertaining.
After the parade it was the turn of all the dogs present to have their day and take part in the Dog Show. The judge for this was Mrs. Lorna Ungoed-Thomas from Fort William. There was a large number of entries, and Lorna rose to the challenge very well in her selection of the prizewinners.
The final event was the return to the ring of 'Riders of the Storm', this time with a Wild West theme.
Throughout the afternoon there were demonstrations of woodturning by Paul Biggin from Kilmallie, and chain saw carving by Iain Chalmers from Culbokie, while sheep shearing displays were given by Donald MacColl from Spean Bridge and Graham Nairn from Tulloch.
An excellent day's entertainment, both educational and informative, was helped in no small measure by the fantastic weather which saw the sun shine all day!
The committee wishes to thank all those who helped and supported the show in any way and hope that you will all return again next year!
Mrs Judy Stuart, Camusdarach, presented the prizes
and is seen here with Eileen MacPhie, Mallaig, winner of the Rose Bowl for Floral Art.
Michelle Milligan won the Cameron mackintosh Cup with Best Dog, Great Dane 'Blue'
Hughie MacDonald, Arisaig, won the Best Beef Calf Cuo and the Donald Campbell Cup
Photo Moe Mathieson
Audrey MacDonald, Arisaig, won the Arisaig Stores Salver
Photo Moe Mathieson
Parade of Highland cattle
Photo Moe Mathieson
On and Off the Rails
Re-opening of Glenfinnan Station Museum and 'Coming of Age' 21st birthday party
Friday 18th May saw a 'Special' evening steam train depart Fort William for Glenfinnan, conveying VIPs and invited guests who were to attend the Museum's 'Coming of Age'. During the past 12 months, work has been carried out in order to refurbish the station building and signal box at Glenfinnan. The outbuildings have also been repainted and repaired where necessary, the signal box being transformed into an audio-visual studio (downstairs) and a research/educational room (upstairs).
The roofs of the main building and signal box were re-slated and all rotten timbers and eroded gutters replaced. The old Goods Shed has been converted into museum artefact stores, and extended to provide a curator's workspace with a disabled access toilet. The station approach has now been transformed into a car park for visiting vehicles, a very useful addition, as parking has always been a problem at the station and museum.
As the 'Special' arrived at the platform, a piper was on hand to welcome all the guests and a glass of champagne was enjoyed by each before the guest of honour, Jim Cornell, was invited to make a speech. Mr Cornell is a former manager of ScotRail, and a former Chief Executive of the Railway Heritage Trust. He gave a most interesting talk, before being invited by Hege Hermes, Station Museum curator, to unveil a commemorative plaque on the wall of the station building. The guests were then all invited to move over to the Dining Car and enjoy a buffet tea. Music was provided by a local band in a pergoda next to the signal box.
At about 7.30pm the guests boarded the train for the journey back to Fort William. John and Hege would like to thank all of those who attended and took part in the 'Coming of Age 21st Birthday Party' of Glenfinnan Station Museum and also those who made the refurbishment possible.
The afternoon Jacobite
Monday June 4th saw the first afternoon Jacobite steam train into Mallaig. it has proved to be very popular and so six carriages are being used.
Unfortunately, the first train didn't go without incident. After arriving at Mallaig, it was discovered that a vital part of the engine watering system had been left behind at Fort William. Thanks to Moe Mathieson and Harbour Master Pimmy McLean, a suitable 'stand pipe' was obtained and a successful top up of the engines tender was completed! The train crew would like to thank both Moe and Pimmy for their assistance in saving the day!
Last month's Competition
Last month I set a competition to win a set of Peter's Railway children's books. Thanks to all who entered. The lucky winner pulled out of the hat was Dee Duncan from Arisaig. Congratulations Dee, your prize will be sent direct to you by the books' author, Christopher Vine.
West Highland News Plus Magazine
The latest edition of this popular magazine is now out (Summer 2012). Priced at only £2.90, it contains many interesting articles and features, along with some nice colour photographs. To obtain a copy, you can purchase direct from me, or they are on sale in the onboard Jacobite steam train souvenir shop, at Glenfinnan Station Museum, or at 'Bill's Place', Fort William Railway Station.
Major Disruption to the National Rail Network (including the West Highland Line)
As I wrote my column, news is coming in of major disruption on the national rail network, including the West Highland Railway (Glasgow to Fort William) and Oban.
The worst affected areas are at Berwick-on-Tweed on the east coast main line, and at Tebay on the east coast main line. Both lines are impassable as I wrote due to either flooding or landslides.
As around 1900 hrs on 28th June, a GBR freight class 67 locomotive and 24 wagons it a landslide between Tulloch and Corrour. The locomotive was derailed and rolled down an embankment towards Loch Treig. Fortunately the driver was not seriously hurt and was able to contact Banavie Signalling centre and call for help. He was later airlifted to hospital, where he was checked over.
The incident caused a major blockage between Crianlarich and Fort William, so no trains could get through from Mallaig to Glasgow. At present trains are running between Mallaig and Fort William and Crianlarich to Oban. The Caledonian Sleeper is 'blocked in' in Fort William and is cancelled until further notice. All sleeper passengers are being bussed to Kingussie in order to board the Inverness-London sleeper, in the meantime buses are transporting train passengers from Glasgow to Fort William and return.
The luxury Land Cruise train The Royal Scotsman due to visit Lochaber on Saturday June 30th has now been diverted to Wemyss Bay, with a possible trip to Oban.
Further Jacobite news
It is worth a mention that, subject to availability, you can now purchase online one way single tickets from Mallaig to Fort William, on either of the two daily Jacobites (Monday to Friday), or the one Saturday and Sunday service. The tickets are discounted, £6.95 child single and £9.95 adult single, and are available on days when block coach party bookings travel to Mallaig from Fort William and do not travel back. Full details and advance booking dates are obtained by visiting www.jacobitetrain.com/specials. For example, it could work out that you wish to travel to Fort William from Mallaig on the 6.40pm Jacobite; you would arrive in Fort William at 8.24pm and have time for a meal and a drink before returning to Mallaig on the 10.14pm ScotRail sprinter service, for which you can buy a single ticket on the train. Details of this offer are also available on the back of your Morrison's till receipts at the moment!
Keep Scotland Beautiful Tidy Stations Award
The mounted plaques are now in place for this year's awards. Mallaig was awarded Gold status and the plaque is displayed in the Booking Office. Morar and Arisaig plus Glenfinnan were all adjudged to be worthy of a Bronze award. See if you can spot them as you travel through on the train! At Morar Station (after a long protracted discussion between ScotRail and Network Rail) six half barrels are bolted in place, four on the platform now filled with ballast and compost and hopefully being planted by me the first week in July, and two on the station concourse that I have already planted up. Alastair MacLeod has agreed to the use of his hosepipe to water them and Phil Hunkin has offered to water them when needed. Thanks gentlemen. Much appreciated.
See you on the train
CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
The Crofting Reform Act 2010 requires the establishment and maintenance of a public register containing crofts, common grazings and land held in runrig. The new crofting register opens in November this year and all crofts that are not already registered will eventually find their way onto it either by voluntary registration or when trigger points are activated such as decroftings or sub division.
Common Grazings also have to go on the Crofting register, there are over 1000 regulated common grazings in the crofting counties and the Scottish Government has agreed to meet the costs of getting these onto the register. Grazing Committees and shareholders have responsibilities to provide information in order to complete the reg process of the common grazings and the process will proceed as follows:
- Awareness letters. These will be sent out to the grazing clerk, area assessor, all shareholders, landowner and SGRPID
- Registration packs. One will be sent to landowner and one to the grazing clerk This pack will include a map of the grazings which is based on the IACS map and it has to be checked separately by grazing committee /shareholders and landowner and returned with amendments if necessary. There pack has to be returned within 8 weeks
- If Landowner and Grazing committee maps match and agreement is met then Crofting commission will submit the maps to Registrars of Scotland.
For any landowner/ grazing committee/ neighbour boundary disagreement that cant be resolved there is a 9 month challenge period to the Scottish Land court
The registration of common grazing has already taken place in the pilot area of Rogart and was very successful and proved beneficial for the grazing committee and shareholders. There have been 100 common grazings identified and the next to be done will be Kilmore in Skye, Shetland and Ardnamurchan. Our own common grazings are 'in the system' which is good as there are 1000 to get through. Unregulated grazings cannot be targeted because there are no contact details as there are no grazing committees. The risks of remaining unregulated could be that these grazings will drop out of the EU system of payments as they cant be registered. We are lucky to have a regulated grazing here but any that don't should take steps to form a committee with a clerk, you only need one shareholder on the committee to be a regulated grazing.
With regards apportionments and mapping, all apportionments that have been granted won't be included in the common grazing map but any that are in the process of being granted will be mapped in with the common grazing. I raised the question of termed apportionments to the Crofting commission last week, they now only issue 'termed' apportionments that have to reviewed by the Crofting Commission every 15 years. An apportionment that has been requested for the purpose of a house site or building will be given a permanent status but the rest must be reviewed. This is to prevent apportionments been taken out of grazings for proposed stock management purposes and then being used for house sites or building works. I was reminded that grazing committees can ask for apportionments to be reviewed at any time if they think they aren't being used for the purpose they were take out for.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
Joanne Mackenzie-Winters had her copy on the island of Grimsey in Iceland at the marker for the Arctic Circle.
Pictured at the Isle Of Man TT are Mallaig men Paul Sinclair, Bertie McMinn & Winkie MacLeod reading West Word with Joey Dunlop.
Paul recently moved from Mallaig to the island and became a subscriber.
Geoff Thomas of Arisaig writes 'We have been to Shetland, where 'the most northerly ... in Britain' is applied to many, many things. The most northerly Pisky Church; the most northerly chippie; the most northerly brewery and so on.
Well, here I am reading West Word in front of the most northerly lighthouse in Britain. It is on Muckle Flugga, off the coast of Unst, the most northerly inhabited island in Britain. I was the most northerly tramp in Britain at the time!'
Charles Murray, a regular visitor to Arisaig and who has a home there, gets a little news while on holiday in Homer, NY, visiting his nephew Christopher Glendening (left) who is also a subscriber.
GOLDEN EAGLE FOUND POISONED NEAR MORAR
Police are appealing for information after a golden eagle was found dead near Morar, Lochaber in March.
A post-mortem conducted by the Scottish Government laboratory of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture showed that the eagle had been poisoned with banned pesticides. A multi-agency investigation continues, involving Northern Constabulary, National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Scotland. This is the third known eagle poisoning incident in the area over the last ten years, with two white-tailed eagles previous victims.
Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations for RSPB Scotland said: "Despite the hard work being done by the police and partner agencies, some individuals continue to disregard the law, and public opinion, by killing protected birds of prey. Sadly, this is just the latest in a long list of golden eagles found poisoned over the last few years, and that only represents those actually discovered. Who knows how many of these magnificent birds are killed but never found? We condemn the actions of those who continue to kill Scotland's birds of prey, and hope that any one with information related to this or other wildlife crimes will step up and pass this to the police or contact Crimestoppers".
Chief Inspector Matthew Reiss, Northern Constabulary's Wildlife Crime Coordinator said: "Wildlife tourism is an increasingly significant income generator in the highland economy, and particularly so in the West Lochaber area of the Highlands. Poisoning is indiscriminate - it could be your pet dog - or even a human - that could be killed simply by contact with such illegal poisons. This is a completely unacceptable and illegal practice. People who use illegal poisons are threatening the economy by killing the very wildlife that people visit the area to enjoy viewing. These visitors are contributing significant spending in the area, so crimes such as this are also threatening the jobs of people directly and indirectly reliant on the income derived from wildlife tourism."
PC Charlie Everitt of the National Wildlife Crime Unit added: "The poisoning of this Golden eagle demonstrates how indiscriminate this practice is and flies in the face of the steady work currently being undertaken by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime. All raptor poisoning cases will continue to be fully investigated."
The eagle was fitted with a satellite transmitter in 2010 prior to fledging from a nest in a habitat management area created by Scottish Power Renewables beside Beinn an Tuirc winfarm on the Kintyre peninsula.
Anyone with information relating to this case is urged to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or Northern Constabulary on 01463 715555.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Overall, June was a quiet month with little in the way of passage birds and the breeding season at its peak or starting to wind down for our local birds.
The last Whimbrel noted was a single at Traigh on the 11th. apart from local breeding waders there was little to be seen until the end of the month when a few Dunlin and Curlew appeared on the shoreline at Traigh, most probably failed breeders.
The Green Northern Divers also at Traigh on the 11th were most likely summering birds rather than migrants,
A Stormy Petrel on the 23rd between Eigg and Arisaig was the first of the season reported inshore.
A walk through the woods at Larachmhor Gardens, Arisaig, on the 21st produced numerous Chiff-chaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Wood Warblers. The latter were particularly good to see and hear as numbers in Britain have declined quite dramatically in the last few years. Also in the woodland around Arisaig, some birds have had a good breeding season with family groups of Long-Tailed Tits and Goldcrests especially obvious.
From mid-month, a Barn Owl took up residence again in the former nest hole in the cliff face in Mallaig.
On the morning of the 12th, an impressive 44 Lesser Redpolls were caught at Rhubana View by a member of the Highland Ringing Group. Several of the birds caught had been previously ringed. Amazingly, on checking the ring numbers, the Ringer discovered that he had ringed one of the birds in his own garden in Inverness back in March 2011!!
Dolphins off Mallaigvaig last month
Photo Moe Mathieson
The old and the new - Waverley and Coruisk
Photo Moe Mathieson
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Thank you to Judi and Alison who sent the following question with 2 photos to West Word.
'Please find attached 2 pictures of an insect seen at Larachmhor Gardens a few days ago. It was high up on a Dog Rose at least 8 feet above the ground. Pictures were taken with a long zoom, hence blurred quality.
The pictures were taken by Alison Wooffinden who comes to Arisaig a couple of times a year. We have searched my insect and wildlife books as well as several searches on the internet and have only come up with the possibility of it being a kind of hoverfly!
Would Auntie Mary or any West Word readers be able to identify it for us?
Judi & Alison'
At first l thought it might be a fly carrying pollen but wasn't sure, then Uncle Jim had the bright idea of checking with the Royal Entomological Society. Here is the response we received - thank you to Professor Jim Hardie, Royal Entomological Society Director of Science.
'Do you know if the insect was alive? It looks to me as though it might have a fungal infection and the fruiting bodies have emerged from the abdomen around the abdominal sclerites, but at this point it would most likely be dead.'
From the photos it looks like a true fly, classified as the order Diptera, of which hover-flies are members. They have one pair of wings used for flying and the hind pair modified into halteres - balancing organs. The conditions in Larachmór Gardens this summer have been suitable for fungal spores to spread easily, and then be ingested by animals.
Dr Mary Elliott
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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